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Wood Floor Heating

For That Extra Comfort When Walking Barefoot On Your Wood Floors

Wood floor heating involves putting electrical cables or hydronic heated water piping beneath your floors’ surfaces to provide the heating for your house in the colder months of the year. Wood floor heating systems create radiant heat. This means that the heat rises up from just below the surface of the floor, and then gets captured by the flooring materials, which then release the heat evenly and slowly.

As the heat slowly releases itself from the flooring, it heats up objects in the rooms such as chairs, tables, and couches. It also heats up people from the soles-upward. Eventually the heat dissipates entirely - but not before it has kept all objects, and all people, toasty warm at a very comfortable level even in the darkest depths of winter.

This means for you far, far less wasted heating energy than you have with the standard forced-air ventilation systems of today. This means greater comfort. This means being able to go about in stocking feet or even barefoot in perfect comfort in the middle of winter.

This means for you no "hot pockets" where uneven heating causes discomfort or extreme warping of floors or walls or nearby objects. It means no "cold pockets" that feel as though you’re passing through a ghost despite having the thermostat turned way up.

And since it is the soles of our feet that are most sensitive to temperature change, the fact that they are the first parts of our anatomy getting heated by wood floor heating means the best possible comfort and the most efficient heating possible. Greater comfort at lower cost - who could ask for anything more?

Pitfalls to watch out for

But let’s not mistake wood floor heating systems for Paradise (though they may feel like it to you and your house guests!). Perfect’s not for real. We do have to be careful with the installation of wood floor heating systems and understand some basic things.

Radiant wood floor heating systems have been around in modern times for decades, really. But before the last decade or so, they were nice but fraught with a few serious problems, not the least of which was floor board warping, especially in more humid or wetter climes. After all, just about all problems with regards to wooden floors have to do with moisture.

It goes without saying that heating up water causes it to expand. Certain very fibrous woods could have their lignin fibers significantly expanded by having the water trapped in them heated up through direct or nearly direct contact with the cables or piping beneath the floor, resulting in significant warping over time.

Today, advanced electronics enable fine micro-tuning, on an automated basis, of the thermostat(s) in a home with wood floor heating systems so as to prevent this kind of problem. Yet, this does not mean that certain architectural and construction considerations should not be kept in mind.

wood floor heatingFor one thing, the more efficient the whole house is, the lower the floor temperature needs to be to achieve the desired levels of warmth and comfort. Custom multi-material windows and doors with low-E double or triple panes and excellent insulation make for a more energy efficient home as much as wood floor heating systems do.

Typically the sub-flooring temperature is kept at 95 to 140 degrees (F) to provide the right amount of radiant flooring heat for optimal comfort, which in itself is usually found to be 80 to 85 degrees (F).

As you can see, there is a little bit of range-margin here, to account for different total house efficiency. So you should not be expecting a wood floor heating system to have a set amount of economic savings over what a forced-air vent system costs. It partially depends upon your home.

Then, let's consider the flooring woods that are the best for radiant heating system installation:

  • Laminated or Engineered Wood Flooring
     
  • Floating Floors
     
  • Wood species that have inherent dimensional stability
     
  • Rift Sawn and Quartersawbn Wood Flooring as they offer greater dimensional stability compared to plain sawn wood flooring.

For wood floor radiant heating systems, narrow boards (2?"[56.7mm] or less) are the best choice for solid wood flooring boards. At the top of this list are American Cherry, American walnut, mesquite, and teak, although there are other ones, too. Brazilian Cherry and maple, however, are included in the unstable wood species. These are designed to move slightly as a unit for accommodating moisture content changes.This has more dimensional stability than solid wood flooring.

Keep these admittedly basic guidelines in mind when you consider radiant wood floor heating systems for your home.